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Protecting aircraft from lasers

New Program Offers Rewards for Information

Here's a pointer: don't let a prank lead to prison. Aiming a laser at an aircraft is a federal crime.Earlier this year, the FBI announced a program aimed at deterring people from pointing lasers at aircraft —a felony punishable by five years in jail—and rewarding those who come forward with information about individuals who engage in this dangerous activity.

The FBI, with the assistance of the Federal Air Marshal Service and the Air Line Pilots Association, has begun a campaign to target this problem and promote public awareness.

The new initiative—which includes a campaign to educate the public about the dangers of “lasing”—will run for 60 days in 12 FBI field offices where laser strikes against aircraft are prevalent. A key part of the program is reward money: the FBI will offer up to $10,000 for information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.

When aimed at an aircraft from the ground, the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser can travel more than a mile and illuminate a cockpit, disorienting and temporarily blinding pilots. Those who have been subject to such attacks have described them as the equivalent of a camera flash going off in a pitch black car at night.

Since the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking laser strikes in 2005, there has been a more than 1,000 percent increase in the number of incidents with these devices, which can be purchased in stores or online for as little as a few dollars. Last year, 3,960 laser strikes against aircraft were reported—an average of almost 11 incidents per day. And it’s estimated that thousands of attacks go unreported every year.

If you have information about a lasing incident or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI office or dial 911.

Watch the video showing the dangers of pointing a laser at aircraft.

For additional information on the laser strikes campaign please visit www.fbi.gov.

Latest revision: 19 May 2014